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Russian Opposition Leader Alexei Navalny Ends Hunger Strike

By Alison Markman

New York City, New York

Navalny's poor health causes nationwide protests (Photo Credit: The Guardian)

Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny was both poisoned and sentenced to two years in prison. Navalny was arrested for not reporting to his parole office while he was in a hospital bed in Germany after being poisoned by a Novichok nerve agent. Navalny, an outspoken critic of Russian President Vladimir Putin, has been exposing corruption in the country since 2008.

On March 31, Navaly began a hunger strike in protest of the lack of medical care he was able to receive in prison. He has been fasting for over three weeks, and on April 21, he ended his strike at the urge of trusted doctors due to issues with his kidneys and being in poor condition. He needed medical care because of the Russian-made nerve agent that had poisoned him. Russia denies all accusations of their involvement in the incident.

Another factor of Navalny breaking his fast was news that his supporters were announcing their own fasts in solidarity with him. In addition, some of the demands had been met at the time, such as giving his personal doctors access to his medical testing and his transfer to a civilian hospital.

He released a statement: “Doctors, who I trust completely, yesterday released a statement that we had achieved enough for me to stop my hunger strike," Navalny wrote. "And also––I'll say it––their words about how my tests show: 'in a minimal amount of time there will be no one to treat.’”

Navalny’s poor health causes nationwide protests. Riot police officers came out to control the protests in Russian cities. By the end of the protests, officers had detained over 1,500 protesters.

In a recent courtroom hearing for an appeal against a defamation conviction, photos arose where Navalny looked emaciated, wearing a prison jacket with a shaved head. “I am a creepy skeleton,” he said. Until he returns to a normal diet, he is beginning to eat 450 calories a day to recover from the fast.

The U.S. had begun to take notice of Navalny’s declining health. On CNN, National Security Advisor Jake Sullivan said that the U.S. is concerned about Navalny. “We have communicated to the Russian government that what happens to Mr. Navalny is their responsibility and they will be held accountable by the international community. We have communicated that there will be consequences if Mr. Navalny dies,” Sullivan said.

Navalny has an anti-corruption organization to expose financial ties in Russia between members of Putin's inner circle and oligarchs, as well corruption and hypocrisies within the Russian government. This organization is also under attack by Putin. A court in Moscow will be hearing a case brought by prosecutors to consider his foundations and regional campaign offices as extremist groups. Anyone who is a member of Navalny’s organizations or publicly voices support could face prison sentences.

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